Hitting Pay Dirt

From the Fall 2009 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Gigi Lazenby
Gigi Lazenby

Virginia “Gigi” Banks Lazenby, BA’67, MBA’73, graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in European history and fine arts—and few job prospects. When family friend Henry Hooker, BA’54, said that he would hire her as his assistant if she learned to type and take dictation, she was more than willing to oblige.

The job would turn out to be a window to some of the most exciting entrepreneurial ventures Nashville has ever seen. In the late ’60s Hooker helped launch the ill-fated Minnie Pearl Fried Chicken restaurant chain. He also helped found Hospital Corporation of America, which is today the largest private provider of health care facilities in the world.

As Lazenby witnessed these ventures take shape, her interest in business grew. At Hooker’s encouragement she decided to enroll at the Owen School. “What I really learned at Owen was the ability to work with people and deal with them,” she says. “There’s a lot more to running a business than crunching numbers.”

After graduation she joined up again with Hooker, who was then in the oil business. It was in this industry that Lazenby found her calling, and she struck out on her own in 1988 to form Bretagne LLC, an oil and gas explor-ation and production company with 40 employees in Eastern Kentucky.

As CEO Lazenby has successfully navigated the ups and downs of the oil and gas business for two decades. She also has served on the board of directors of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and on the National Petroleum Council. She credits her husband, Ted Lazenby, BA’54, former President of National Life & Accident Insurance Co. and Founder of Southlife Holding Co., with urging her to become involved in industry associations.

She may have come a long way since those days of few job prospects, but Lazenby has not forgotten the lessons she learned. For today’s students who find themselves in a similar position, she offers this advice: “Don’t worry so much about where your job is or how much you’ll be paid. Just find a job and do it well. Appreciate all the people you work with, and go from there.”

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